Mangalore: A Guide to a Port City on India’s West Coast
June 15, 2019
by Sucheta Chakraborty
Mangalore in the south-western Indian state of Karnataka offers an exhilarating combination of delicious coastal food, rich architectural traditions, splendid sunsets, colourful festivals, and high-octane theatrical performances. The city experiences warm, tropical temperatures throughout the year and its famous red clay tiles which give its urbanscape a distinctive look help provide relief during the long summers and heavy monsoons.
The city attracts large crowds during its annual Car festival which is held at the Venkataramana Temple on Car Street. It is also well-known for the Hulivesha, a form of folk dance typically performed during Navratri where men dress up in tiger costumes, cover their bodies in paint and dance fervently to the beats of drums while executing spectacular stunts. Popular though controversial is the annual kambala buffalo race held after the monsoons. Public transport in Mangalore is privately owned and provides excellent connectivity to nearby cities like Udipi. There are special tours organized for those interested in seeing the old colonial architecture of Mangalore.
What to See
Enjoy the sunset and a take a long, windy walk by the sea at Panambur Beach which lies a few kilometres to the north of the city. The beach hosts an annual kite festival which draws a lot of visitors as well as the International Kite Festival every two years. It is clean and safe, has a parking facility and offers activities like jet skiing, boating and dolphin viewing.
Spend a whole day amidst nature at the Pilikula Nisargadhama, a tourist centre which spreads across 370 acres and houses a lake, a botanical garden, a zoo, a water park, a science centre, a golf course, a heritage village, and India’s first 3D planetarium. Wear comfortable shoes as there will be plenty of walking to do and be alert to the opening and closing timings of each site. There are restaurants where you can stop to catch your breath and grab a quick bite.
St Aloysius Chapel
The stately and elegant St Aloysius Chapel and College Grounds are a must-see when in Mangalore. Built in the 1880s, the chapel’s interiors are rich with frescoes and oil paintings composed by the Jesuit painter Antonio Moscheni. The paintings depict events in the life of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga and recently along with the old museum of St Aloysius College went through long and extensive restoration work. The distinguished St Aloysius College is alma mater to the likes of cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga and former Union Defence Minister George Fernandes.
Take a walk through the sprawling school and college grounds after a visit to the chapel. The spacious classrooms, playgrounds and community spaces will take you back to your own school days.
Dive into some naval history at the Sultan Battery watch tower built in Boloor during the reign of Tipu Sultan. There are ferry rides to the nearby Tannirbhavi beach and plenty of opportunities to take stunning photographs of the sea and the setting sun.
The beautiful Mangaladevi temple, built in the 9th century by King Kundavarman of the Alupa dynasty, is dedicated to the goddess who lent her name to the city. After visiting the central shrine, take a walk around to get a sense of the temple’s traditional structure and to explore the other smaller shrines of the temple.
Catch a Yakshagana performance during your stay in Mangalore. It is a vibrant traditional form, originally performed only by men, which combines dance, music and theatre with elaborate costumes and make-up and dramatizes stories drawn from the Indian epics.
Where and What to Eat
Located on the busy Kalikamba Temple Cross Road is Giri Manja’s, one of Mangalore’s most popular seafood restaurants. It is a modest homestyle eatery which was founded more than 30 years ago by the late Giri Pai and later run by his son Manjunath Pai until the latter’s death. Currently managed by daughter-in-law Nandini Pai, Giri Manja’s is known for offering some of the tastiest Mangalorean fried fish preparations in the city. Reach early to ensure you get a place and be sure to order quite a few portions of the anjal tawa fry, the squid fry and the prawn golden fry alongside the regular fish thali.
Ideal Ice cream/Pabbas
With parlours across the city including the popular Pabbas on MG Road, Ideal Ice Cream is an essential part of Mangalore’s foodscape. It is known to serve rich and unique ice cream preparations along with dollops of nostalgia for its loyal customers who have been taking family and friends to Ideal for years. Try the ‘Gadbad’, a combination of vanilla, strawberry and kesar ice creams mixed with a layer of jelly, dry fruits and fresh fruits. It’s the brand’s most well-known offering and owes its name to the fact that the workers at the outlets struggled to get the combination right when it was initially conceived.
Woodlands offers a rather novel eating experience. It is well known locally for its delicious snacks like Golibaje, Podi and Bonda among others but what is also exciting is how you can drive out to the hotel’s parking lot and place your order while sitting in your car. Hot, freshly fried snacks will be brought straight from the kitchen to your vehicle and you can open the doors, stretch out your legs, perhaps strike up a conversation with the people in the car next to you while munching on your snacks. And don’t forget that glass of tea you placed on the roof of your car!
If you like street food, give this a go. The charmuri is a spicy mixture made up of puffed rice, vegetables, lots of lemon juice to give it a sharp, tangy taste and prettily garnished with coriander leaves on top. It is served in paper cones and the sellers typically set up their stalls outside tourist spots and at marketplaces in the evenings. This kind of street food is called chaat and is widely available in other parts of India as well but the charmuri tastes quite different from other puffed rice preparations like bhelpuri or jhalmuri, so make sure to give it a try when in Mangalore.